COLUMBUS — No. 3 Ohio State and No. 4 Michigan didn’t disappoint in their much-anticipated meeting on Sunday, but it was the Wolverines who outlasted the Buckeyes by a final score of 92-87 in Value City Arena.
Duane Washington Jr. scored a career-high 30 points to lead Ohio State, and E.J. Liddell recorded a double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds. C.J. Walker once again turned in a big effort in a reserve role, adding 15 points.
Aside from Ohio State’s big three, however, it was a paltry effort from the Buckeyes’ complementary pieces, who combined to score just 19 points. Five scorers reached double digits for Michigan, led by Hunter Dickinson’s 22-point effort, and the Wolverines’ scoring depth proved to be a deciding factor down the stretch.
As expected, both prolific offenses were out and running early, with Ohio State taking an early 4-0 lead. Chaundee Brown Jr.’s three tied the score at nine points apiece just six minutes into the game, but a 7-2 spurt by the Buckeyes opened up a five-point lead nearing the midway point of the first half.
Michigan stormed back with 8-0 run, sparked by a pair of three-pointers from Brown Jr., to take their first lead of the game at 22-19. The Wolverines’ lead grew to as many as six at the five-minute mark, but a three-point play by Seth Towns and a pair of free throws from Liddell stemmed the tied and kept the Buckeyes close.
The remainder of the first half was played within a four-point window as the lead changed hands multiple times. A layup from Eli Brooks at the horn sent the Wolverines into the break with a slim, two-point lead as the two teams combined for 80 points over the opening 20 minutes.
Despite Ohio State’s 53% shooting effort in the first half, Michigan connected on 10 of 13 attempts from three to ward off the Buckeye scoring barrage.
The halftime break did little to cool off either team, but after a quiet six points in the first half, Dickinson began to assert his dominance in the paint for the Wolverines. Following an Ohio State layup to open the final period, Michigan immediately went to Dickinson on their opening possession, and the 7-foot-1-inch center saw a steady dose of touches throughout the remainder of the game.
Six lead changes marked the opening three minutes of the second half before a three-pointer by Brooks gave Michigan a 54-50 lead with 16:42 remaining.
Ohio State quickly battled back, and Justice Sueing’s three-point play had the Buckeyes out in front by a point as the clock ticked under 14 minutes.
Back and forth the two teams went over the next four minutes, trading baskets and the scoring advantage as each squad refused to blink.
Kyle Young’s three-point play gave Ohio State its largest lead of the second half at 65-61 with 10 minutes to play, but it was short-lived as Michigan responded with a 6-0 run to jump back ahead as the game entered a critical stretch.
The two teams played within one possession of each other over the next five minutes until two free throws by Dickinson gave Michigan a 73-69 lead with 4:52 remaining. Washington Jr. quickly answered with a three-pointer to get Ohio State back within a point, but a thunderous dunk by Dickinson over multiple Buckeye defenders had the Wolverines in front by three, setting up a critical sequence in the game.
Down by just three, Ohio State forced a badly-needed stop on defense, but Sueing’s errant pass on the other end was intercepted by Isaiah Livers, who raced down the floor for a layup. Sueing’s foul on the layup only compounded the mistake, and Livers’ free throw gave Michigan its largest lead of the second half at 80-74 with 2:33 left to play.
With Michigan’s defense make quality looks especially difficult to come by for Ohio State, the Wolverines’ lead grew to eight on a layup from Brooks with less than a minute remaining.
Ohio State cut the lead to just three points with three seconds remaining but the last-ditch effort was turned away as Michigan secured their signature win of the season and third consecutive victory since returning to play last week.
“It was a hard-fought game,” Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann said following the game. “I thought both teams competed, both teams were really good offensively, really made shots. You have to give (Michigan) credit. They were able to get enough stops there. We turned it over, they had a couple of offensive rebounds in a key sequence, and I think that was ultimately the difference.”
Holtmann said he had “no issues at all” with his team’s offensive attack, despite the lack of across-the-board scoring that had propelled the Buckeyes to wins in their previous seven games. “It was the other end (of the floor) that didn’t allow us to win the game,” he added.
With the loss, Ohio State drops to 18-5 on the season and 12-5 in the conference. Michigan strengthened its grip on the Big Ten regular-season lead, moving to 11-1, although much uncertainty remains on how the Wolverines’ postponed games will affect the final standings.
Ohio State returns to action on Thursday when they travel to Michigan State. Tip-off for that game is scheduled for 9 p.m.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.